(Ben Rothwell is happy about his new contract, and yes, that’s what he looks like when he’s happy)
The last six months have been confusing times for Ben Rothwell. After leaving the IFL following an unbeaten run that spanned nine fights in fifteen months, he’s been waiting on the sidelines for a new contract and a new organization. Last week, Rothwell’s manager and former CEO of the short-lived M-1 Global promotion, Monte Cox, announced that Rothwell would be joining his new organization, Adrenaline MMA.
In this exclusive Cage Potato interview, Ben Rothwell discusses the details of that contract for the first time, as well as the very strong possibility that he may also fight for another organization later this year.
CagePotato.com: Tell us about the new organization that you signed with, Adrenaline MMA. What’s your contract with them like and how did you decide to go with them instead of one of the other companies that offered you a deal?
I was trying to find the best company to go with. M-1 had been talking to me, obviously Monte Cox was the head of it and he gave me an idea of what they were looking at. I was trying to hold out while they figured out their business with Fedor. I had other organizations looking at me, but I wanted to wait and see what the best deal would be. Fedor’s management was just impossible to deal with, so that hurt M-1, but Monte and everyone else there decided, ‘Hey, we can still be an organization’, so they created Adrenaline.
They’re not missing a beat, because they had everything planned and now they can still go ahead with it, minus Fedor and the Russians. As soon as that was decided I got the phone call to get signed and I said absolutely.
It’s a good deal. Three fights, non-exclusive, so it’s a very cool thing for two reasons. Number one, I’m getting paid a flat rate win or lose. Now I can go out and just throw everything I have without worrying because I know I’m getting paid. The second thing is the non-exclusive thing. If there’s a lot of time between shows or an opponent doesn’t come through, if I a get a call from Japan I can go over there and fight. It’s very cool and I’m very happy.
Can you talk about what kind of money you’re getting in this flat rate contract?
I don’t really want to talk about that, but I will say that it’s a lot more than what the IFL had offered. It’s the kind of contract that makes me happy, I’ll put it that way. It’s the kind of money that makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and like I’m making it as a fighter.
After all the trouble with M-1, are you concerned about how solid the organization is and what kind of future they might have? It seems like they’ve already had a lot of difficulty without ever putting on a show. Does that worry you?
No, because I was on the inside and I was hearing how they were progressing before this thing happened with Fedor. They’ve already got two venues contracted and signed up. They’re ready to go. It was just Fedor’s management slowing it down. The rest of the company was rock solid.
I’ve known Monte Cox for a long time and he’s a good businessman. He’s just like me in that he doesn’t do anything just to come in second place. He does it to make money and to be the best at it. If he’s behind it, that makes me feel confident.
What about the conflict of interest that seems apparent with your manager running the organization that you’ve signed with?
What will happen is I’ll probably be represented by someone else now and Monte will be the CEO of this new company, just to avoid the conflict of interest problem that people keep talking about. I don’t want to deal with that. As of right now he can be my manager, but that will probably change.
But since he’s your manager and he’s been working on this new organization, did you ever worry that he might not entertain or really pursue offers from other organizations because he wanted you for his company?
There is that possibility, but that’s when the dollar signs come into the picture. Would someone else offer me a better deal now? Maybe, but I know what they were offering prior to this, and it wasn’t what I’m getting now. Adrenaline has stepped up to pay me what I want, and the other companies, they missed their chance.
With the non-exclusive deal, I can almost tell you, though it hasn’t been announced, that you’re going to see me fight in another organization this year. I’ll be fighting for Adrenaline and another organization. I can almost guarantee you that. With that said, I’m not worried about missing other opportunities because of this.
My question about the non-exclusive contracts is, since other organizations like the UFC deal primarily with exclusive deals, won’t it be hard to get a fight with some other organization if they can’t get you in an exclusive deal?
They’re going to have to change. They’re going to have to change if they want to pick up more talent. If I’m fighting in Adrenaline and also for another organization, you know that must mean at least one other organization is doing a non-exclusive deal too. I think the other organizations are going to catch on to that. They might see that there’s a way to work things, or they have their stars and also bring in other guys to fight those stars. I think it’s going to move in that direction.
What about this first Adrenaline MMA show in Chicago? Do you know what the fight card looks like and whether you or Tim Sylvia will be on it?
I heard through the grapevine that Mike Russow would be fighting Jeff Monson on that show. I’ve heard a few other names in other weight classes, but as far as Tim and I go, I’m not sure. I just have to wait and see.
Since the two main guys announced for Adrenaline so far are you and Tim Sylvia, and you’re both teammates who are both managed by Monte Cox, is there a chance that the two of you will fight each other down the road?
It would be one of those things that would have to happen way down the road and the possibility is less likely. If someone wanted to do something for a belt or some obscene amount of money, Tim and I might say, hey, it’s business, let’s go make some money. But as long as there’s other talent, and there are eight other guys on the top ten list for us to fight, we can stay busy fighting those guys first.
You mentioned the top ten list. You recently broke into Sherdog’s top ten and you’re number nine in the WAMMA rankings. What does that mean to you, if anything?
It’s nice to get the attention and I do like to be recognized by the media in this sport. It gets a lot of people who are knowledgeable about the sport talking. Do the average fans agree with it? Not always. You get people who say I haven’t fought good enough competition, but if you look at my record and look at how long I’ve been around and who I’ve fought, I think it’s deserved. Now it’s just a question of do I stay on the list and do I move up on it. That’s what you’re going to see this year.
But do I put a lot of stock into these lists? Not really. Sometimes you see these lists and you think, what is this guy doing on here? I may not agree with it, but that’s fine. There are some people who are supposed to be on there and I feel I’m one of those guys.
Do you think the nine or ten spot is where you belong right now?
For now, absolutely, because every guy above me has fought top guys and has earned his place above me. The number nine or ten spot, I think, is for someone who still needs to prove themselves against other guys in the top ten, and that’s where I am.
As for those other guys on the list, who do you think you might get a chance to fight soon and who are you hoping to fight?
Anybody on the list, obviously, I’d like to fight. I eventually plan on fighting everyone on that list, Fedor included. He’s looked at as the best fighter in the world, the number one heavyweight, and he might not be fighting much longer. For me, just to be able to fight him would be an accomplishment. Randy [Couture] is the same way.
There’s nobody in the world I think I can’t beat. I could lose to anyone on any given night, but I also feel like I have the skills where I always have a chance to win against anyone. It might sound like overconfidence to some people, but it’s not. It’s just confidence in myself. I want to fight and I want to make a name for myself.
You haven’t fought since your last IFL bout against Ricco Rodriguez in September. Is it hard to stay motivated for training with no fight on the horizon?
Absolutely not. I’ve enjoyed my break. Fighting eight times from September  to September , it was hard to get ready so fast between fights. You don’t get much rest that way. I’ve enjoyed the time off and I’ve actually been training harder now.
Once I saw my name on that top ten list I knew my life wasn’t going to get easier. The fights are going to get harder, and so has my training. I love it. I’ve brought in some new coaches to do some new types of training. I’m happy to see that most of the other guys on the top ten list are older and more established. I’m only 26 and I’m still working my way up.
How about the paychecks you’ve missed since then? Did it ever worry you that you didn’t have money coming in and didn’t have a contract with anyone?
It gets nerve-racking. It’s been about six months since my last fight and at some point you start to wonder if anything’s really going to come through. But I knew something had to happen because I had established myself as a desirable fighter for an organization to have and I knew that eventually I was going to find a home. It was just a matter of when, who, and how much, and now it’s all working out. I’ve just been training for a fight anyway because I knew when I did get one it would probably be a hard fight.
I was good about my money when I was with the IFL. I saved and saved, and I didn’t live like a rock star. I had a pretty nice nest egg, so I haven’t had to worry about money too much.
Did you talk seriously with the UFC at any point, and do you think that a fighter these days still has to get to the UFC before he gets mainstream recognition?
The UFC is a big deal for a fighter because of the kind of recognition you get. So many people are watching it, so they are the big dog. They were interested in me, for sure, and they put offers on the table that weren’t bad. But there were other organizations that were offering more money and I didn’t want to pass that up.
I also knew that if something happened with these other organizations, the UFC would still be there. All I’m doing is building my stock and making a name for myself right now. Then, if and when I do go to the UFC, I have some name recognition, not just another guy who has to prove himself.
Do you see yourself eventually ending up in the UFC?
It’s very possible. I’d be stupid to say it isn’t. It’s kind of a coin toss. There’s a possibility that these other organizations will really do well and I’ll be very valuable to them and they won’t want to let me go. But there’s a chance that won’t happen. I just try and keep my doors open and not burn any bridges.
I always give the UFC respect because I’m only able to fight and make money now because of them. People can say what they want about Dana White and his company, but I started fighting in 1999 and I can tell you that the sport was not in a good place back then. Now you go into a bar and everyone watches it, everyone wants to say they’re a fighter and wear all the cool fighter t-shirts. But back in 1999 there were no t-shirts, no big pay-per-views, and when I said I was a fighter my parents said, ‘You’re crazy! You better go get a job.’ Now things have changed, and that’s because of the UFC. So I can’t say I’ll never end up there.